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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for April 6, 2007

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Insider's guide: Climbs of the Ronde van Vlaanderen

With the first of Belgium's big classics, the 91st Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), just days away, Cyclingnews' Ben Atkins hopped on his bike and took to the route to see what lay ahead of the riders.

When riders line up in Brugge on Sunday morning, a 259 kilometre parcours will lay ahead. At the end of the gruelling ride will stand a single man: a victor. While he stands in glory the remaining riders in the peloton will be also-rans.

But in order to get there he will first have to conquer 18 hellingen, the Flemish term for climb. The cobbled climbs vary in length, with the smallest only a few hundred metres spanning through to the 2.2 kilometre long fifth climb of the event, Oude Kwaremont.

The gradient too is vastly different, with a 16.3 per cent covering the range between the highest and lowest gradients on the route. While riders will enjoy 134 kilometres of riding before easing into the climbs with the 463 metre Molenberg, you can be sure that from then on the race will really start to heat up.

Here's Cyclingnews' breakdown of the hellingen.

The steepest section of the Molenberg
Photo ©: Ben Atkins
(Click for larger image)

Climb 1 - Molenberg
Length: 463m
Average gradient: 7%
Maximum gradient: 14.2%
Surface: Cobbles
Km from start: 134km
Km from finish:125km

This climb can take the uninitiated by surprise. The course is rolling along quite comfortably along a nice, flat, well surfaced road when it suddenly takes a sharp right turn and is faced with a steep wall of cobbles. First time riders may find themselves almost grinding to a halt as they're stuck in too big a gear, simply because they weren't expecting it. The steepest section is near the middle before it begins to ease off and the cobbles give way to asphalt for the last few metres.

To read the full feature, click here.

Quick-Step ready

A pic from last year: Boonen celebrates his second win - will he be able to make it three?
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

On Thursday, QuickStep-Innergetic held a press conference in De Panne to announce the team line-up for the Ronde van Vlaanderen that takes place on Sunday. Tom Boonen, the obvious leader after two consecutive victories of the race, will be joined by World champion Paolo Bettini, Steven De Jongh, Kevin Hulsmans, Sebastien Rosseler, Gert Steegmans, Kevin Van Impe and Peter Van Petegem to try and accomplish a historic triplé.

Boonen, who said that he had excellent form, still knew that this will not be easy. "Over these last few days I've realised that I really could do something unique - winning Flanders for the third time in a row, but I'll also need a bit of luck on my side to do this," he said. "It won't be an easy feat. I don't like predicting results but I will say that this year team strategy will be fundamental. There are a lot of good teams taking part and it will be important to have teammates close-by in the finale."

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Some have said that Paolo Bettini could also play his own cards in the race, but Boonen wasn't worried. "I'm sure Peter Van Petegem and Paolo Bettini will be alongside me. We have a very strong team. The changes to the parcours this year could change the race during the finale, as well as the weather conditions. The weather forecast is sun and hardly any wind - it is hard to say whether this is a positive or a negative thing. More often with the weather that has been forecast the race becomes very quick and difficult to interpret and control," he added.

Current World Champ Bettini, for his part, hasn't had a perfect preparation leading up to the big Belgian event. "I'm in reasonable form even though all of the problems I've had recently certainly don't help in my being at the top," he commented. "This is not the approach to the race that I dreamed of during the winter but I'll be giving my all as usual. If during the race, I realise that I'm not up to win, I'll do everything to help Tom and the rest of the team just as I did in Sanremo."

For Peter Van Petegem, who is expected to ride as a domestique for the team's leader, there shouldn't be any unexpected twists. "Our leader is Tom Boonen, then we have Paolo Bettini," he said. "On Saturday evening during a team meeting I'll find out about my role and what the team will be expecting of me." Nevertheless, 'De Peet' is suffering from a light inflammation of his knee.

Saunier Duval for Easter races

Spanish team Saunier Duval has announced its team rosters for the upcoming races during the Easter week-end. On Saturday, the GP Miguel Indurain around the town of Estella in the Spanish Pyrenees will see Koldo Gil, Juanjo Cobo, José Alberto Benítez, Iker Camaño, David Cañada, David de la Fuente, Arkaitz Durán and Rubén Lobato at the start, with directeurs sporifs Joxean Fernández "Matxin" and Sabino Angoitia guiding them through.

On Sunday, DS Pietro Algeri and his selection of riders will take the start in one of the classics of the year, the Tour of Flanders. The lineup will include Fran Ventoso, Raivis Belohvosciks, David Millar, Manuele Mori, Luciano Pagliarini, Jesús del Nero, Ángel "Litu" Gómez and Raúl Alarcón.

Finally, on Monday, the team will reappear in the Vuelta al País Vasco, one of their big targets this season. Last year, the Basque race let José Ángel Gómez Marchante taste victory champagne. The rider from Madrid will be accompanied by Iban Mayo, Koldo Gil, Leonardo Piepoli, David de la Fuente, Juanjo Cobo, Iker Camaño and Rubén Lobato.

Rabobank, Quick-Step and T-Mobile climbers for Pais Vasco

Beautiful spring scenery in the Basque country
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

From April 9 through April 14, some of the best climbers in the pro peloton will again take to the mountains in the Vuelta al País Vasco. With 35 categorised climbs along the 863km race route, the six-day race is a real climbers’ delight. And the race gets straight down to business with stage one is a selective 139 km trek around Urretxu with nine climbs to tackle, as well as a summit finish. On the second day, 191 kilometres and eight climbs will have to be mastered, and even the 14km final time trial will test the riders' climbing skills.

Dutch Rabobank team leader Erik Breukink will line up a powerful squad the ProTour race: Mauricio Ardila, Thomas Dekker, Theo Eltink, Koos Moerenhout, Denis Menchov, Grischa Niermann, Michael Rasmussen and Pieter Weening, with Bram de Groot and Thorwald Veneberg on the reserve list.

With Koos Moerenhout, Rabobank will bring a former stage winner and winner of the mountain classification to Basque Country. In 1999, Moerenhout won the fourth stage to Lekumberri and in 2007 once again the finish of the fourth stage. All in all, Rabobank recorded four stage victories in Vuelta al País Vasco. Besides Moerenhout and Boogerd in 1999, in 2002 and 2006 Beat Zberg and Oscar Freire have added stage victories to the roll of honour of the team.

Quick-Step, under the guidance of directeur sportif Serge Parsani, will take the following riders to the six-stages event: Serge Baguet, Carlos Barredo, Ad Engels, Bram Tankink, Jurgen Van De Walle, Geert Verheyen, Giovanni Visconti and Cedric Vasseur. Baguet, who was fighting some back problems recently, has been able to relieve the pain and will thus be at the start as planned.

Juan Manuel Garate, initially scheduled to take part, will not be able to participate because of a crash on the February 23 during the second stage of the Tour of the Algarve. The Giro d'Italia 2006 Green Jersey winner has had to slow down his race participation and preferred to carry on training rather than risking a setback by returning to racing too soon.

German team T-Mobile will be led by Patrik Sinkewitz and Michael Rogers. Sinkewitz placed fourth overall in the Basque country last year after an excellent final day time trial performance saw him charge up the leader board. "It’s a selective parcours that suits Patrik," said directeur sportif Valerio Piva, although he played down the 26 year-old’s chances in the face of the strong local competition. "The Spanish teams will be really up for this one. They're always hard to beat on their home turf."

Michael Rogers is the team’s other GC rider - the Australian arrives in northern Spain fresh off finishing fourth overall at the Coppi e Bartali stage race in Italy. "Michael performed extremely well last week in atrocious weather conditions, even digging in to lead out his teammates in the sprint stages," Piva added.

Supporting the two leaders in the Basque Country will be Michael Barry, Giuseppe Guerini, Serhiy Honchar, Adam Hansen, Axel Merckx and Jakob Piil.

State of race promoting in the US: Up or down?

The American racing calendar for 2007 has grown larger compared to previous years, with more higher-rated events coming onto the scene. These events range from new events with new promoters to older events elevating to a new level. This upsurge could represent a change in the share for cycling amidst the highly competitive American sports sponsorship market. However, the financial stability of some of these races has recently come into question, with a few announcing postponement until 2008 due to sponsor issues. Cyclingnews' North American Editor Mark Zalewski spoke with these and other top promoters in the nation to get a sense of the state of cycling promotions in the country and what may be ahead in the future.

The '06 Tour de Georgia

Photo ©: Jon Devich

(Click for larger image)

2006 was an all-too-typical roller-coaster year in terms of race promotions and sponsorships on the North American calendar. The Tour of California burst onto the scene as a new race with a lot of money from the title sponsor Amgen. (Every rider received a free iPod for starting!) This was followed by an uncertain Tour de Georgia that was trying to replace its title sponsor of two years. Fortunately the Georgia Ford Dealers Association stepped in to take over, but only for one year. Next, the annual race known as 'Philly week' suffered a blow, losing both the national championships and their title sponsor of more than two decades without much notice. But like Georgia, the race managed to secure enough eleventh-hour sponsorships and funding from the local and state governments to stay afloat.

All things considered, even with the uncertainty surrounding some major races, 2006 ended up a successful season in terms of U.S. based racing - and things looked bright for 2007. Sponsors were coming back in Philly and California, races like Georgia had commitments from local governments, and seven new races were on the UCI America Tour calendar. The new additions included both existing races like the upgraded Tour of Utah, and completely new races like the US Open Championships in Virginia, the Austin Invitational and the Tour of Missouri.

USA Cycling was encouraging the developments by creating a new tier of racing in the country called the USA Cycling Professional Tour, consisting of all the UCI sanctioned races. USA Cycling's CEO Steve Johnson agreed that the increase in high-level events was a positive sign. "The creation of this calendar signifies a major step forward in the evolution of our sport at the highest level within our own borders."

To read the full feature, click here.

Toyota-United has high hopes for US Open

The Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team will put its top riders on the start line of Saturday's inaugural US Open Cycling Championships. Two of them - sprinter Ivan Dominguez and veteran European pro Henk Vogels - are being pegged as favorites to win the UCI 1.1-rated, 112-mile (179 km) race.

The event is the second stop on the USA Cycling Professional Tour after the Tour of California in February. It begins in colonial Williamsburg at 8:10 a.m. and finishes with eight laps of a 5.5-mile circuit in the capital city of Richmond.

Joining Vogels and Dominguez on the Toyota-United start list are: Chris Wherry, Ivan Stevic, Sean Sullivan, Justin England, Jose-Manuel Garcia and Caleb Manion. "I will probably designate some of our guys to do a job early on - riders who have a lesser chance of making it happen," Toyota-United Team Director Harm Jansen said. "They're there to cover breaks. That's one thing we can control: being represented in every break that goes up the road. If we don't like the representation of the break, we will chase it down immediately."

Saturday's weather could play a decisive factor. The current forecast calls for temperatures in the mid-30s [Fahrenheit; 1-2° Celsius] at the start, with a 30 percent chance of rain and/or sleet and snow mix. Temperatures in Richmond for the finish (expected to be around noon) are forecast to be in the middle 40s [6-7° Celsius] under cloudy skies.

Sullivan, who serves as one of the riders on the Toyota-United lead-out train, said Dominguez will be hard to beat if he is near the front as the finish line nears. "When he gets to the last corner in the first two or three positions, it's kind of hard for anyone to get near him," Sullivan said. "I think we have a really strong chance of winning. We just have to keep doing what we're doing."

Mt. Hood Classic offers travel grants to women's teams

With a commitment to take women's cycling to a whole new level, the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic has partnered with Taco Del Mar restaurants to once again offer travel grants to all Pro 1-2 women's teams planning to compete at this year's event, scheduled to take place from May 29-June 3, 2007. The grants are up to $500 cash and are available to Pro 1-2 women's teams of between four and six riders. A total of 10 grants will be distributed for this year to assist in travel costs and expenses.

"We are excited at the tremendous opportunities in the US for men's cycling with the creation of the new pro tour. Unfortunately Pro/Elite women have not had those same opportunities," stated Mt. Hood Cycling Classic event director Chad Sperry. "We have a real passion to grow women's participation in the sport and maximize opportunities for women. This event is just too good not to get more elite women involved."

This year's Mt. Hood Cycling Classic will provide one of the most challenging women's races in the US and Canada. Spanning six days and six stages, competitors will cover 285 miles of racing and 25,000 feet of climbing. NRC points and nearly $10,000 will be up for grabs to the women.

For more information regarding this grant program or to receive an application, contact women's race director Chad Sperry at or for more info on the race log on at

"Sooty Park" returns this Saturday

The producer of Sooty Park, David Olle has announced that "Cycling Sooty Park" will commence screening in Sydney on Channel 31 this Saturday April 7, at 7.30pm. Sydney completes the show's debut in all the major capitals of Australia (check you local guides for screening times).

Sooty Park's first short film "Kate" debuted in Melbourne this weekend at the 2nd annual "Celluloid Cycles Film Festival" to a full house and rapturous applause. "Kate" was born through a segment developed on the Melbourne-based show, featuring partners who are not as bicycle-fascinated as their loved ones, known as "Those We Leave Behind".

Sooty Park's crew will be leaving our shores shortly to chase cyclists around Europe, returning next summer to present a truly national program with an international flavour, for all of Australia's cycling fans, along with all their regular popular segments "The Roller Room", "Don't Try This At Home" and "In Ya Shed".

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